Jan 26, 2008

Why Do We Write?

Why Do We Write?

The text we are using for my creative writing class taught by Betty Webb is Lessons From a Lifetime of Writing, a novelist looks at his craft by David Morrell. Mr. Morrell is the author of Rambo, the book that the movie starring Sylvester Stalone is based on. I ordered my book from Amazon and received it in the mail yesterday. It is very inspiring to read. Over the past several years I’ve purchase several books on writing. So far this is one of the easiest and most engaging books about writing I’ve read.

The first chapter is titled “Why do you want to be a writer?” Mr. Morrell quotes Jerry Lewis: “Because I have to be. Because there’s something in me so nagging and torturing and demanding to get out that I absolutely have to make people laugh.” Mr. Morrell says The right answer for why we write is “Because you have to.”

The first couple of pages explain why we don’t do it for money or fame. We all know after some years at it - this is not the reason we write. A few writers break through and make it to the big money and become icons in the industry – but most writers do not.

Writers write. It is like breathing – it has to be done or we die. I find I write when I’m happy. I write when I’m sad. I write when I’m angry. I write when I want to remember a special occasion. I write when I want to explore my dreams – both good and bad. I write to achieve catharsis. Writing is therapeutic. I can kill or torture any character I please however I like – and it’s legal. I can create a fantasy world that is wonderful and exciting and travel there anytime my mind desires without the worry of cost, passports, or picking up a deadly disease. And so I write.

Ideas swarm around me everyday, begging to be written down and explored. A headline I glance at while in the grocery store will start me on filling in all the blanks. Watching people around me will have me creating stories to explain their behaviors. It seems that a voice is dictating phrases to me almost 24/7.

I remember waiting at a green light and seeing a truck transporting huge glass window panes. Instantly my mind heard a loud crash and saw the driver leap from his seat carrying a gun. Low rider cars converged on the scene and a battle raged in the middle of Baseline and Country Club with automatic rat-a-tat-tats and curses hurling through the air. I was so involved in the sights, sounds, smells, and feelings that the car behind me honked to get me back to the “real” world. As I hastily washed the taste of smoky grit from my mouth, I realized the glass truck was long gone. I went through the light and pulled over. I wrote down my day dream. Until that was completed, I couldn’t continue my work as a home health nurse. Weird? No. That’s what a writer does. They have imaginary experiences that totally surround and engage them, involving each and every sense, sight, hearing, touch, taste and smell + intuition – the writer’s sixth sense. The closest example I can think of is like being in an IMAX theatre that included tactile and olfactory stimuli.

Of course there are plenty of days that I don’t have any remarkable inspiration for writing. On those days, I suggest at the very least we do as President Eyring encouraged us to do – journal our gratitude. If we don’t feel any gratitude that day, write down why. But write, because we must.


  1. What a fun essay! I really enjoyed reading it, Margaret. Bottom line, you're right about writing - because I have to, too. Thanks, Rene

  2. You have a very vivid imagination--a great thing to have!

  3. I enjoyed your post, Margaret. I've had to snap my attention back from plotting a story many times when driving on the freeway, so I wouldn't miss my exit. :-)


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